Table of Contents for this Episode
[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France episode 388, trois cent quatre vingt huit. Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.
[00:00:38] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks, about the crusade against the Cathars and the places you can still visit today, that bear witness to this frightful crusade.
[00:00:53] Annie Sargent: Today, the landscape is breathtaking and Cathar country is a wonderful place to visit anytime of year, because the weather is so pleasant there. It is also one of those places in the South of France where real estate prices are still reasonable, for those of you who are thinking about finding your place in the sun in France.
[00:01:13] Annie Sargent: After the interview, I’ll share a French tip of the week, which I haven’t done in awhile, a quick update on French news and quite a bit about travel news this time.
[00:01:24] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours services, including my itinerary consult and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris. You can browse all of that at Annie’s Boutique, JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique.
[00:01:42] Annie Sargent: On the podcast Facebook group, Jill Walsh wrote, “Annie Sargent, just to say, thank you so much for your audio tour of the Latin quarter, which I took last week on my visit to Paris. Loved it. Really insightful and enjoyable. I must rewatch Midnight in Paris.” Yes, those of you who’ve taken the tour will understand the reference. Thank you, Jill, a day spent in the Latin quarter is a good day for sure.
[00:02:13] Annie Sargent: Another great way to stay in touch with Travel to France and podcast news is to sign up for the newsletter at JoinUsinFrance.com/newsletter. And now that I have a podcast editor, I may actually have time to write more regular newsletters. At least that’s the plan.
[00:02:42] Main show
[00:02:42] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse!
[00:02:43] Elyse Rivin: Boujour Annie!
[00:02:44] Annie Sargent: We have an exciting program today of things that gratefully, happened long, long ago, that we don’t have to worry about today. That’s going to be our episode about the crusade against the Cathars, and how it ended in Montségur.
[00:03:01] Elyse Rivin: Yes.
[00:03:02] Also listen to the episode about the beliefs and lifestyle of Cathars
[00:03:02] Annie Sargent: And it was really a nasty time for these poor people. Now, we did a previous episode about kind of the theology of the Cathars and what brought all these people into this movement, and if you haven’t listened to that one, it might be a good idea to do so at some point, because it will make things a little bit easier to understand.
[00:03:25] Elyse Rivin: A little bit easier to understand why there was this terrible war.
[00:03:29] Elyse Rivin: This very terrible war. We can call this a crusade, which it was, I guess, officially considered to be by the Church, by the Roman Catholic Church, we call it a Crusade.
[00:03:40] Elyse Rivin: You might also consider it as a civil war in the region of Occitania. And we’re talking about something that happened 800 years ago.
[00:03:50] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:03:51] The 1200s in Occitanie
[00:03:51] Elyse Rivin: In fact, it covered a period from the year 1209, officially beginning in the year 1209, and ending with this finale, if you want to call it that, this tragic ending in the year 1243, but the war itself officially, was a period of 20 years. And what we’re talking about is a war that was a war of religion. It was also a war for conquest of territory. It was extraordinarily bloody and brutal. And, unfortunately, there was no such thing as moderation at that time, not that there is today that much, but was even worse back in those days.
[00:04:37] In the 1200s France did not exist as we know it today
[00:04:37] Elyse Rivin: And just to make sure everybody situates this a little bit, we’re talking about a time 800 years ago when Occitania was a separate kingdom. Aquitaine was a separate kingdom. Everyone has heard of Eleanor of Aquitaine. These were kingdoms run by dukes or counts who were considered to be under the influence or power of both the Roman Catholic Church and the king of France, but the king of France actually didn’t control or own these territories. So at the same time it was a religious war, it was also a war of conquest. It really was.
[00:05:11] How did the war begin?
[00:05:11] Elyse Rivin: So how did this all begin? Well, as Annie very, very, very carefully and in great detail explained in the podcast about the Cathar, the Cathar was a new Christian movement that took hold and really, really took quite amazingly in the Southwest of what is now France. And that had started about a hundred years before. Little by little, all of a sudden, the Pope who was of course the most, I say, the most predominant political person in Western Europe at the time, suddenly realized that the influence of all of these new people, this group that we call the Cathar, was far too much, and it was taking people out of the Church and it was really, disturbing the equilibrium of things.
[00:05:58] Attempts to stop it
[00:05:58] Elyse Rivin: And there had been an attempt more or less, I’d say half-hearted attempt to find other ways of dealing with this problem. And then, there was a man who is extremely important and he’ll be important later on in talking about what happened.
[00:06:11] Elyse Rivin: A man who was originally from Spain, named Dominique Guzman, who was an envoy of the Pope, he was sent to this area, right around where we are and going towards Carcassonne and Narbonne and all of that. And he was basically sent to check things out and see what could be done to bring people back to the Roman Catholic Church.
[00:06:35] Elyse Rivin: And he came through this area with a couple of other emissaries and wrote back some reports to Rome. And after several years of traveling around the whole Southwest, basically he wrote back and said, “I don’t think there’s anything we can do. We have to get rid of them. We just have to get rid of them. They don’t want to be convinced, there is no way of talking to these people. Occasionally, there’s somebody who says, okay, I’ll renounce this new religion and come back to the Church, but somehow, the majority of these people, they’re just not ready to come back.”
[00:07:09] Elyse Rivin: And so the Pope, who at this time was very, very, very powerful, he said, “in that case, we really have to get rid of them.”
[00:07:18] Elyse Rivin: And by “get rid of them,” he literally meant exterminate these people.
[00:07:24] Elyse Rivin: It wasn’t just trying to re-convert them back to the Church. This is what makes this so extraordinary, right?
[00:07:31] An army was created
[00:07:31] Elyse Rivin: And so an army was created. And what did he do to make this army? Well, he went to his most loyal servant, who was the king of France, who was up there in his kingdom, up around the Ille de France in Paris, and he said, you get your best noble warriors, your dukes and counts, who are loyal to you, and I give you the money, you create an army. We’re going to go down, we’re going to go down through the Rhone valley, come all the way down, and we’re going to try and wipe out this new movement, and we’re going to take back the territory and bring it back to the church.
[00:08:10] Elyse Rivin: And it’s very interesting, because it’s both, “take back the territory” and “bring it back to the Church,” it’s not just one.
[00:08:17] Elyse Rivin: And so in fact, an army that is estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000 people, which is huge, what was organized and,as you mentioned, a lot of them were mercenary. Many were the knights and chevaliers who were loyal to their specific count or duke or whatever. Most of these are of course, all people from the North, and they needed someone to be the head of the army.
[00:08:39] The problem was that the two highest noblemen in this group didn’t like each other and the king realized that it was just going to cause trouble, if one of them became the head of the army and not the other.
[00:08:51] Arnaud Amaury, the Monk at the head of the crusade
[00:08:51] Elyse Rivin: So, they decided that it wouldn’t be neither and that it would be a man who actually was, a Cistercian monk, believe it or not, and his name was Arnaud Amaury, and he was loyal to only one person, and that was the Pope.
[00:09:05] Elyse Rivin: And he was made head of this expedition, and they officially called it a Crusade. Religious take back the country from these horrible heretics. These were horrible heretics.
[00:09:19] An army makes its way dowh the Rhone and towards Béziers
[00:09:19] Elyse Rivin: And they started going down the Rhone valley in the beginning of the year 1209. How long it took, I don’t know, but the very first place that they stopped is one of the most significant, because it’s famous in history, it’s famous for where it was and what happened there, and that is the town of Béziers. They arrived in Béziers in May of 1209.
[00:09:44] Elyse Rivin: Béziers is still very picturesque, and a good part of it is upon the hill, you can see it from very far away. At the time, it was a fairly important city, completely surrounded by two sets of ramparts. And it was considered to be very safe. Impregnable. I love that word, impregnable. Somehow, it has to do with pregnant, but impregnable, right?
[00:10:06] Elyse Rivin: And the local people inside Béziers, nobody knows exactly how many of them were members of this new movement called, the Cathar. But very often it was people in the same family, some of whom had converted and some of whom had stayed Roman Catholic. Let’s say maybe, maybe 50% of the population, who knows? Nobody really has any idea. They were probably 6,000 or 7,000 people living inside this city, this walled city.
[00:10:35] Elyse Rivin: And of course, this army was an enormous army with an endless amount of money attached to it. And so they surrounded Béziers but the people inside the walls thought that all they had to do was stay there and that eventually, the army would simply go somewhere else because they could not get inside. They were high up on a hill, the walls, it’s quite impressive to see even today.
[00:10:58] The Siege of Béziers
[00:10:58] Elyse Rivin: Unfortunately, unfortunately, what happened was that several very thoughtless, stupid, I don’t know what the word is, you know, mindless, irresponsible, oh my goodness, you know, people, we don’t even know how many, at some moment, when this French army was surrounding them with all of the machinery that you can imagine of the Middle Ages.
[00:11:21] Elyse Rivin: There was some small door in the ramparts, that they went out at night thinking that nobody would see them and that they could go and get water. I’m sure they had wells inside, but they needed to supply themselves with something. And so they opened this door and unfortunately for them and for everybody else in Béziers, they were seen.
[00:11:45] Elyse Rivin: And so the very, very infamous Siege of Béziers began.
[00:11:51] Elyse Rivin: And what happened was that the huge French army, the Pope’s army, managed to enter the city, the walled city of Béziers, and when the soldiers started fighting, they did not know who they were supposed to be fighting, because everybody looked the same. I mean, they were just men and women and children who were living there and they looked like everybody, everybody looked the same.
[00:12:15] “Kill them all, God will know”
[00:12:15] Elyse Rivin: And so there is a wonderful story. Nobody knows if it’s exactly true, that one of the heads of the army turned to this Arnaud Amaury and said, who do we kill? How do we know who is a Cathar? And he turned around and he said to them, “Kill them all, God will know.”
[00:12:40] Elyse Rivin: And what did happen for sure, is that the entire population of Béziers was massacred, and it has gone down in history as one of the worst moments in this incredibly infamous crusade against the Cathar.
[00:12:55] Crusade or Genocide?
[00:12:55] Yeah, I guess another word for Crusade is “genocide.”
[00:13:00] Elyse Rivin: In this case, it was definitely set up to be an ethnic cleansing, let’s say, you know, in the sense that it’s a genocide against a group of people who are thinking differently.
[00:13:12] Annie Sargent: Right. So these are people who have a different outlook on life. They don’t look very different.
[00:13:19] Annie Sargent: You know, they are like everybody else was in the South of France.
[00:13:23] Annie Sargent: And this is one of the reasons why they couldn’t tell them apart.
[00:13:27] Elyse Rivin: They couldn’t tell them apart.
[00:13:28] Annie Sargent: They were no different.
[00:13:29] Elyse Rivin: There were no different.
[00:13:30] Roger Trencavel of Carcassonne
[00:13:30] Elyse Rivin: Now, the battle of Béziers ended at the end of May. It happens that a very important person, one of the next important people in this story is the vicount Roger Trencavel, one of my heroes in this story. This young vicount, his home was in the Chateau of Carcassonne, which I’m sure some of you have already seen.
[00:13:53] Annie Sargent: Right, when you go to Carcassonne and you hear about the Trencavel.
[00:13:56] Elyse Rivin: You hear about the Trencavel. The Trencavel were an extremely important and powerful family in the Southwest. They were first cousins with the counts of Toulouse, but they were the leaders and they were the Lords of Béziers, of Carcassonne, of Albi, of Minerve, which is a small town now in that area, and of a whole region around Carcassonne called the Razès, the region of Razès and it happens that he had been in Béziers just a few days before the attack that killed everybody. And he was under the impression that Béziers was safe.
[00:14:30] Elyse Rivin: And so what happened was, he left, he went back with some of his knights to Carcassonne, which is a good distance away actually from Béziers, because you have to kind of go further down and South and then further West.
[00:14:42] Elyse Rivin: And he said, we can prepare here. We know that the army is going to come around. They’re going to come all the way down to Narbonne and then they’re going to start coming up towards us heading eventually, towards Toulouse, which is the ultimate prize that they wanted. So we can be sure that Béziers is safe? We can organize ourselves here.
[00:15:02] Allies refused
[00:15:02] Elyse Rivin: It happens that when he got to Carcassonne, he did not know right away that everyone had been killed in Béziers and he himself had a problem. And that was that, although everybody was related, they were all cousins. So he was cousin of Pierre of Aragon, who was technically in Spain, but who was one of their cousins. He was first cousins with the Count of Toulouse. He was first cousins with the Count of Foix. But divide and conquer, this is always what happens. He tried to convince all of these different rulers to join with him to make one unified army, to fight this mass coming down from the North, and for various reasons that were mostly political, several of them refused.
[00:15:48] Elyse Rivin: Pierre of Aragon refused because he was worried that the war would carry over to the other side of the Pyrenees into Aragon. The Counter of Toulouse, who at this time was Raymond VI, because the last Raymond was the Raymond VII, but this is his father, Raymond VI. He was what the French would call, “mou”.
[00:16:11] Annie Sargent: Soft.
[00:16:12] Elyse Rivin: Soft and soft, in the sense of being wishy-washy, he was at the same time, relatively tolerant. He was not a Cathar. He was still a member of the Roman Catholic Church, but he kind of let everybody do what they wanted to do. He didn’t bother anybody.
[00:16:27] Elyse Rivin: However, because of that, he was starting to get a lot of pressure on him from the Pope. And finally, the Pope said to him, if you side with your cousin, the Trencavel and create an army against us, you’re going to be ex-communicated. So he said, well, in that case, I’ll fight with you against my cousin Trencavel.
[00:16:52] Elyse Rivin: And so the first part of this battle, that sort of happened to be around Carcassonne, Raymond, the Count of Toulouse, actually fought against his cousin.
[00:17:02] Seeking refuge within the walls of Carcassonne
[00:17:02] Elyse Rivin: And what happened then was that two months later in July of 1209, because 1209 is really, really, really important. This huge army, which had already gone through all of the villages from Narbonne going towards Carcassonne. And you can still see some of them, you have the village of Bram, you have villages all along the way. They managed to kill a whole bunch of people along the way, they encircled Carcassonne now.
[00:17:28] Elyse Rivin: Some of you know, Carcassonne is really hard to imagine being attacked. It’s this enormous double-walled city. Of course at the time it was a single-walled city, but it’s up on this enormous Promintory, it’s very well-defended, it’s very steep on three sides.
[00:17:43] Elyse Rivin: And Trencavel, who did have some other troops with his own troops, he assumed that he could stave off all of these armies. And so he invited the entire local population to come in and be safe inside the walls of Carcassonne. Which means that again, we’re talking about 6,000-7,000 people.
[00:18:07] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Apparently, Carcassonne was very heavily populated.
[00:18:11] Elyse Rivin: Heavy populated.
[00:18:12] Annie Sargent: Yeah, very densely-packed with people. And what I had read was more between 30,000 and 40,000.
[00:18:19] Elyse Rivin: I don’t think you can actually put that many people inside Carcassonne.
[00:18:23] Annie Sargent: It’s hard
[00:18:24] Elyse Rivin: Hard to imagine. In any event, what did happen was that he offered refuge to all the peasants, all the people who were working and living in the outlying lands right around the city. And, of course he had his Chateau inside the city of Carcassonne. And so they all went inside the city.
[00:18:40] Elyse Rivin: And it is a fact that this was in July. It is very hot in the summertime in and around Carcassonne, we’re in the South of France. And so what happened was, they did not have enough water.
[00:18:52] Annie Sargent: Right. This is a time when even if you have wells, they dry up.
[00:18:55] Elyse Rivin: They dry up. And of course, we’re talking about limestone, the water just seeps right through, it’s very hard to keep it going.
[00:19:01] Trencavel gives himself up to save his people
[00:19:01] Elyse Rivin: After a siege of several weeks, Trencavel who was 24 at the time. He was 24 years old. He was married, he had a two-year old son. He realized that the entire population that was his responsibility, and maybe it was 10,000 people or 12,000. I doubt very much if it was 30,000, but certainly it was packed, packed, packed. And you could imagine the sanitary conditions anyway.
[00:19:25] Elyse Rivin: He said, I will negotiate. I will give myself up if people are allowed to leave and not be killed. And that is exactly what he did. He sent an emissary to the heads of the army and he said, if you allow the people under my jurisdiction, if you will, to leave, I will give myself up.
[00:19:48] Elyse Rivin: And the gates were opened, people were allowed to flee, but they were forced to leave. They were forced to leave Carcassonne. They could not go back to their homes or anything. They were just forced to go as far away as possible.
[00:19:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah, apparently they were forced to leave, leaving everything behind.
[00:20:02] Elyse Rivin: Leaving everything behind. Everything. And he was taken prisoner in July of 1209 in the dungeon in his own Chateau inside Carcassonne.
[00:20:12] Simon de Montfort
[00:20:12] Elyse Rivin: And by this time, there was a new man who was the head of the army. And that is a man who is the man you’re going to go ‘ssssssss’ when you listen to this podcast. His name was Simon de Montfort. And he was a Baron from Normandy. He actually had lands in England, in Leicester, ever in the area around Leicester.
[00:20:33] Elyse Rivin: He was a seasoned warrior. And what happened was, that because the army was starting to kind of be disorganized, they really needed someone who was a good general. And so they found him, because they had asked a whole bunch of other people and everybody kept saying, no, thank you, we don’t want to get involved in this, this is too nasty for us.
[00:20:53] Elyse Rivin: And he said, yes, I will do this, and I will conquer all of this territory, if afterwards I become the Lord, taking the place of the Count of Toulouse. And so, whatever, I don’t know if they signed contracts or not in those days, you know, whether it was just a handshake, but he was in his middle-50s and his son, one of his sons who was a warrior and they brought other soldiers with them coming from Normandy, he, by this time took over.
[00:21:19] Simon de Montfort takes Carcassonne
[00:21:19] Elyse Rivin: So he was in charge of the Siege of Carcassonne. And so it was Simon de Montfort, Simon de Montfort, boo, who, ‘hissssss’, who was the head of this incredible army that totally surrounded the Carcassonne.
[00:21:35] Elyse Rivin: And when Roger Trencavel was led into the dungeon and they let all these people out, of course, they basically exiled them all from Carcassonne, he took Carcassonne as his headquarters. And he stayed there, that was his headquarters for the rest of the time that he was alive. And hopefully, you will find out soon why he was no longer alive after a certain time. And from there, they proceeded to work their way, going basically West, Northwest, with the ultimate goal being to take Toulouse. And then once they took Toulouse, the war would be over.
[00:22:11] Elyse Rivin: Along the way, because Trencavel’s territory included Albi, which was of course if you know, a little bit now about the geography, after taking control of Carcassonne and as they headed towards Toulouse, Simon de Montfort gathered part of his army and included some local people who were doing basically what we’d call a turncoat.
[00:22:32] Elyse Rivin: They were decided that they were no longer going to defend the Cathar, so there were even knights and soldiers who were originally helping the Cathar who’d suddenly decided, no, this is not a good idea. Let’s save our own necks, we’re going to go fight with Simon de Montfort.
[00:22:47] Elyse Rivin: And as they were going towards Albi, which is basically North and West of Carcassonne, they also targeted a small town named Lavaur, which is still a lovely little town of about 15,000 people, that’s about 35-40 kilometers north of Toulouse. It’s on the road, it’s a little bit off, but it’s basically on the route. It’s like the triangular route between here and Albi, you have Lavaur.
[00:23:15] Elyse Rivin: And why did they go to Lavaur? Well, Lavaur was interesting because at the time, and of course we’re talking 800 years ago, it was a hotbed of Cathar. It was an important walled city. Now there are no walls left to see, there’s still a very beautiful old city center, but it’s really, really very small. But at the time, it was one of the most important centers, and there was a Bishop, a Cathar Bishop who actually lived in Lavaur.
[00:23:43] Dame Guiraude
[00:23:43] Elyse Rivin: And the lady who was the equivalent of a Lord who was in charge of Lavaur, was a woman named Dame Guiraude. She was a widow. Her husband had been killed in a prior battle. She had become a parfait. She had become basically a priestess of the Cathar. So had two of her children and her son, who was a knight who originally was not part of the religion and who was really kind of trying to decide whether he wanted to help defend his mom and her city or not, what happened was, he got menaced by some of the soldiers from Simon de Montfort’s army, and in reaction, he decided he was going to stay and help his mom in Lavaur.
[00:24:28] Elyse Rivin: And so a good chunk of Simon de Montfort’s army sort of broke off and went to attack Lavaur. And they did manage to attack it, even though it was walled, like most cities were at the time. And what happened there, since it was in a city where everyone had become a Cathar, a member of the new religion, whether they were priests or not, everyone, a hundred percent of them were Cathar; was once they managed to attack the city, there was a bit of a defense.
[00:24:55] Elyse Rivin: But again, Raymond VI, who I’ve come after going back and doing my research, to really dislike in this story, he promised them, because they were under his jurisdiction that he would help and send soldiers. And in the end, he never did.
[00:25:11] Elyse Rivin: And Trencavel was already in prison, and the Count of Foix was far too South, and he was worried about what was going to happen, where he was, so he was not going to get rid of his soldiers to go help them.
[00:25:22] They took Lavaur
[00:25:22] Elyse Rivin: And so they were attacked, everybody was taken prisoner. A few people were, they said, oh, we, we changed our mind, you know, we’ll come back to the Church. You got your life saved that way, you know. The rest of them were killed just like in Béziers and Dame Guiraude was put into a pit and she was lapidated, and then she was burned. And she was considered to be one of the heroines, one of the stoic women who actually resisted till the last minute, but they managed to take Lavaur.
[00:25:56] Elyse Rivin: And then they went to Albi, where most of the people basically decided to reconvert back to Catholicism, and so they did not attack Albi at all. They just basically made a U-turn and decided to head back South towards Toulouse.
[00:26:11] Elyse Rivin: So what we have is we have major sites, we have Béziers, we have Carcassonne, we have Lavaur.
[00:26:17] Elyse Rivin: And then we finally get to Toulouse. And Toulouse had three major battles.
[00:26:22] Elyse Rivin: The first battle was basically, pathetically defended by Raymond VI and his army. And part of the problem with this, was that not all the knights wanted to go and fight against this humongous army that was coming to incircle the city.
[00:26:38] Elyse Rivin: Now, Toulouse was walled you know, we know that Toulouse was a walled city. It was a very big city. Even at the time, it was 35,000-40,000 people inside Toulouse. It was defended by everybody for the simple reason that people did not want their city to be invaded, and because the Count of Toulouse was their king, in a sense. They did not want to be taken over by the King of France.
[00:27:00] Elyse Rivin: So it wasn’t that it was filled with Cathar, there were a fair number of Cathar in the city, but the entire population did defend the city.
[00:27:09] Simon de Montfort takes Toulouse
[00:27:09] Elyse Rivin: But that did not help, and so in 1213, the city was taken by Simon de Montfort.
[00:27:16] Elyse Rivin: What happened however, was that as Simon de Montfort continued battles, he went to a town called Muret, South of Toulouse. He turned towards the Pyrenees to go and attack Foix, which is in the foothills, of course, in the Pyrenees.
[00:27:30] Elyse Rivin: He started to kind of incircle the entire territory.
[00:27:34] The Revolt of the Barons
[00:27:34] Elyse Rivin: The fact that they occupied this area, created more and more resentment and hostility, so that several years later, there was what was called, the Revolt of the Barons. And there was the second major battle around Toulouse, where various different local noblemen tried to reorganize an army.
[00:27:55] Elyse Rivin: Ultimately, what happened was that they never were able to bring everybody together. And this is really what made the great defeat in the Southwest of France, was that they could not unify everybody. Every lord was worried about his own little territory, so they didn’t want to sacrifice their soldiers in case they all got killed.
[00:28:15] Elyse Rivin: What happened though, was that Pierre the King of Aragon, decided that maybe it was time to help his cousin, Raymond VI, and so he sent his troops and he came himself to Muret, which is really what, 25-30 kilometers south of Toulouse. And there was this huge battle with an enormous part of the soldiers from Simon de Montfort.
[00:28:36] Pierre of Aragon is killed
[00:28:36] Elyse Rivin: And guess what happens? Pierre of Aragon gets killed. And when he gets killed, what do his soldiers do? They skedaddle, they go back to Aragon on the other side of the Pyrenees.
[00:28:48] Elyse Rivin: And there is Raymond VI with this kind of pathetic army, and so Toulouse is held by Simon de Montfort. We come up a few years later, this is really getting to be a kind of a permanent situation in the area.
[00:29:03] Elyse Rivin: But there’s a kind of swell of resentment, because Simon de Montfort was repressive as could be. He was a good soldier, but he was not a good leader in terms of a civil population.
[00:29:15] Annie Sargent: Not well liked.
[00:29:17] Third revolt in Toulouse
[00:29:17] Elyse Rivin: Not well liked. And so in 1218, there’s a third revolt in Toulouse.
[00:29:25] Elyse Rivin: And if you come to Toulouse and you go to the city hall, there’s a wonderful mural on one of the walls, which shows all the men and women up on the walls, repairing the walls, setting up all of the machinery to defend Toulouse for the third and ultimate time.
[00:29:41] Elyse Rivin: And in 1218, Simon de Montfort, who is really kind of hanging out back in Carcassonne, cushy Carcassonne, you know, and he’s in his Chateau up there. He and his son, who’s probably about 30 years old by this time, they take a chunk of their army back to Toulouse.
[00:29:58] Elyse Rivin: Because his son says to him, you know, you’re really going to have to put out this revolt or we’re going to be in trouble, because a lot of the soldiers that they had hired were mercenaries and they were leaving. They were paid to stay for 40 days, what the original sense of the quarantine is, that is the idea of 40 days. You get paid for 40 days, you can pillage take what you want, after 40 days, unless you sign a new contract, you don’t have to stay anymore.
[00:30:23] Elyse Rivin: So their army was getting to be a little bit smaller than it had been before.
[00:30:28] Elyse Rivin: So Simon de Montfort and his son and what was a good chunk of their army, come back to Toulouse and they incircle it. And there is a place where you can still see there’s a plaque that says, “This is where Simon de Montfort came to his end.”
[00:30:44] Annie Sargent: Ha ha ha!
[00:30:45] Elyse Rivin: Ha ha. And it is right on the outside of the walls on the South side of this city.
[00:30:52] Elyse Rivin: And what happened was, there was such a revolt inside the city, they say, that every adult man and woman was on the barricades, on the top of the ramparts with whatever they could.
[00:31:04] Simon de Montfort dies
[00:31:04] Elyse Rivin: But this was not Simon de Montfort’s lucky day. And a catapult with a nice round stone was shut out from the walls hit him square between the eyes, and
[00:31:23] Elyse Rivin: him.
[00:31:23] Elyse Rivin: That was the end of him. It is said, nobody knows for sure, that it was a woman who actually did the catapult-ing, I guess we can say. I’m not even sure. In any event, on the mural in city hall, we see a woman, basically getting ready to shoot out this stone that indeed killed Simon de Montfort.
[00:31:45] Elyse Rivin: And what happened then was that his son, who is also named Amaury, decided that maybe it was time to regroup, and he took his soldiers back to Carcassonne.
[00:31:55] Elyse Rivin: However, this is 1218. The war has been going on for nine years. Believe it or not, it’s another 11 years, and 11 years of skirmishes, of fighting, of the different lords taking different positions, of the army regrouping and not, before ultimately what happens, is that the French army with money coming again from the Pope, finally defeats what is left of Trencavels and the Counts of Toulouse’s soldiers. And part of the reason for this defeat ultimately, is because they could not create a unified army at all.
[00:32:35] Elyse Rivin: And so in the year 1229, tired of war, still Raymond VI, but he’s an old man. So now his son, Raymond VII, who is basically the last Count of Toulouse, who has basically taken over for him, he sees that they are really never going to win this war.
[00:32:53] Elyse Rivin: And so, there is a delegation that comes from Paris, from the King, the King of France, who at this point is Louie VII. Andhe renders his power.
[00:33:04] Elyse Rivin: Basically they say to him, if we can negotiate a treaty, we will stop fighting. We will stop killing. We will just end the war.
[00:33:12] The Treaty of Meaux
[00:33:12] Elyse Rivin: And so unfortunately, this is what happens, and so in August of 1229, it’s called the Treaty of Meaux. Moue is actually a city East of Paris.
[00:33:24] Elyse Rivin: uh Where they make Brie, yes. He signs a treaty and this treaty says that he, that is Raymond VII, the last Count of Toulouse, if he does not have a son, a legitimate child, because all of these people had children, but they weren’t necessarily legitimate. He has one daughter who is a legitimate child. Her name is Jean, she’s 12 years old in 1229.
[00:33:52] Elyse Rivin: And so the treaty says, it stipulates that if he no longer has any more children, any more legitimate children, that at his death, the territory will be given over to his daughter. But his daughter must be married to the King’s brother, who is also 12 years old. Because none of these people are very old, when you think about it. You know, some of them were in their early twenties, some of them were in their early thirties, right? And the brother is the Duke of Orleans.
[00:34:25] Raymond VII diese
[00:34:25] Elyse Rivin: And what happens is, that Raymond VII eventually dies, his daughter who has been taken from him and brought to the Court in France in Paris, and she’s been brought up actually, so she knows this guy who she’s gonna be married to. When, of course they married them off the nobility and the royalty at 12-13, even if they didn’t consume the marriage, as they would say, you know, until later on.
[00:34:50] Elyse Rivin: So her father dies, having had no more legitimate children, she marries the King’s brother. And guess what happens? She never has any children. And she and her husband who apparently, according to everything I’ve read, basically got along. They’re exactly the same age, they go off on a Crusade to Jerusalem together, because she’s been brought back to the Church. I mean, she never was a Cathar anyway, but she’s very, you know, very religious, and coming back from a Crusade in the year 1251, the two of them die.
[00:35:29] Elyse Rivin: And there you are. What happens is, in 1251, the entire region of Occitania officially becomes a part of France.
[00:35:40] War ends. Cathars laying low
[00:35:40] Elyse Rivin: However, what has happened to the Cathar in all of this? Well, the war ends in 1229, but there are still places where there are Cathar.
[00:35:51] Annie Sargent: Of
[00:35:52] Elyse Rivin: They’re in the cities, they’re mostly now in villages, hidden away in forests, up in the mountains, they’re trying to be inconspicuous. Laying low.
[00:36:03] Pope’s still not happy
[00:36:03] Elyse Rivin: And the Pope says, you know, this is not enough, this is not good enough. Well, we’ve gotten the territory back, but we still have not brought enough people back to the Church.
[00:36:14] Elyse Rivin: And so he says, now it’s time to try another tactic. Forget this business of the war. What we’re going to do is we’re going to find a way of bringing individuals in front of a commission, the person he says that he wants to take charge of this process is the same guy, Dominique Guzman, who he had sent around right before 1209.
[00:36:38] Elyse Rivin: So this is already a number of years later, and he says, okay, a member of the Dominican order. He was one of the founders of the Dominican order. And the Dominicans are set up here in Toulouse, and they are a preaching order who are inside the city. They’re supposed to be devoted to poverty, but the Pope gives them a second mission.
[00:36:59] The First Inquisition
[00:36:59] Elyse Rivin: And he tells them, you, that is you, the Dominicans, under the auspices and the ideas of this man, Dominique Guzman, you’re going to create a kind of inquest commission, and you’re going to go out and you’re going to find people and you’re going to bring them in and ask them questions about whether they’re heretics or not.
[00:37:20] Elyse Rivin: And this is what is called, The Inquisition. And it was, unlike what most people think, it was not the Spanish Inquisition that was first, it wasn’t this Inquisition, here in Toulouse, started in the year 1233. That was the very first ever of what is officially called an Inquisition. And it was specifically against the Cathar.
[00:37:46] Because it’s interesting to know, because every time I do a visit in Toulouse, I ask people I think that the Inquisition is Spanish. And just about everybody says, yes, you know? I mean, this is what we learned in school, outside in the States and in England, that the Inquisition is synonymous with Spain.
[00:38:04] Elyse Rivin: Well, the Spanish Inquisition was actually inspired by this Inquisition. And in Spain, the Inquisition was against anybody who was not Christian and Catholic. In Toulouse, it was only against the Cathar.
[00:38:18] Elyse Rivin: And just to give an idea, if you were Jewish, and there was a small Jewish population in Toulouse, they didn’t even bother with you because you weren’t even Christian.
[00:38:27] Elyse Rivin: Well, if you weren’t Christian, did it didn’t have a soul, so who cared anyway? Nobody worried about you, you know? It was, you were a non-thing, you know, you just didn’t matter. It just, you didn’t matter.
[00:38:39] Whatever you say.
[00:38:40] Elyse Rivin: So here we are in the year 1233. And what happens is, that the word spreads that it’s going to get nasty, really nasty for the few, whatever, hundreds, thousands of Cathar who still live, but scattered around, not showing their faces too much.
[00:38:59] Roger de Pereille
[00:38:59] Elyse Rivin: And so there was a man who is a lord, and he is a lord of a small area near Foix, which is a town, that’s a beautiful still fortified town, South of Toulouse in the Ariège area, in the beginning of the Pyrenees.
[00:39:14] Elyse Rivin: And this man, his name is Roger de Pereille, and his family is Cathar. And his wife is Cathar, and she is a cousin of the Countess of Foix who is a parfait, who is a priestess in the Cathar religion. And there are lots of small villages in the foothills of the Pyrenees where lots of the Cathars have gone to live.
[00:39:39] Elyse Rivin: And so he says, “I think that things are going to go badly. We really have to figure out something to protect ourselves.”
[00:39:47] Elyse Rivin: He has under his dominion, in his territory up on top of a very sharp, what this called a ‘pog’, POG. I said just a promintory in the middle of the beginning of the Pyrenees.
[00:39:59] Elyse Rivin: There is a ruin of a castle, a fortified castle that, if you can imagine, we’re talking about the 1230s, is old. So what are we talking about? Something that’s 100 or 200 hundred years old, that needs to be fixed up and modernized. And so he has his knights and all the people he can get gathered together, and he has them go up to the top of this hill.
[00:40:22] Elyse Rivin: And of course, when you go, as you and I have both gone, you really can imagine how unbelievable the work was to do this because it’s so steep. And it’s up on the top of this, this very steep, sharp hill.
[00:40:35] Elyse Rivin: And in the space of a couple of years, they fix up the castle, the fortified castle, they reinforce the walls around it, they create wells so that they do have water, they create a tunnel.
[00:40:47] Elyse Rivin: Apparently, there is verification that there really was a tunnel that leads down inside, because it’s limestone and out, so that some of them can get out and go on missions and go get food and things like that. And a lot of the Cathar come to live in this castle.
[00:41:02] Elyse Rivin: And then other peasants who are Cathar, but don’t feel that it’s necessary to actually go in, they come and build their little houses nearby on the sides of the mountain, close by, down below, and there’s this little town of Montségur, which is still there to this day. And they start living there.
[00:41:20] Elyse Rivin: Now, the Inquisition gets worse and worse. It gets really nasty, they start killing people. They start burning people. They start menacing people. Remember, this is from the 1233 on. By 1240, almost all the Cathar have gone into hiding.
[00:41:38] Elyse Rivin: And the Pope keeps pushing and pushing and pushing and saying, not enough, not enough. We’ve got to get rid of these Cathar, because whatever is left of them, they’re going to influence everybody else. And so finally, an army is created. Unfortunately, it’s an army that basically uses a lot of the soldiers that were the soldiers under Simon de Montfort, who’ve managed to take over one town and then another, and they’ve basically set themselves up, down in the Southwest of France.
[00:42:06] Elyse Rivin: So this is still the vestiges of the French army that are there, including a man named Philippe de Levy, who is now the head of Mirepoix, a town nearby.
[00:42:15] The Siege of Montségur
[00:42:15] Elyse Rivin: And in 1241, they head for this fortified castle called Montségur, and they surround it. Montségur in Occitane means ‘safe mountain’.
[00:42:29] Elyse Rivin: And they surround it. And for a while, they just seemed menacing, because they do have this tunnel, they have wells, they have ways of getting their provisions in and out, and they have these men called Faydit, which means that these are knights who have had their lands taken away from them because they have fought on the side of the Cathar.
[00:42:53] Elyse Rivin: And so, there’s an estimation that maybe there were 50 of them. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but apparently it was enough to give a kind of pretty good defense to this castle. There are how many people? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know if
[00:43:07] Annie Sargent: anybody
[00:43:07] Elyse Rivin: really knows.
[00:43:07] Annie Sargent: It’s not very big.
[00:43:08] Elyse Rivin: It’s not very big, but you have to imagine that there were annexed buildings on
[00:43:13] Annie Sargent: Right. I remember actually, I remember you can kind of see remnants on the sides of where they used to have huts, or whatever.
[00:43:19] Elyse Rivin: Exactly. And apparently, there were other pieces that were totally destroyed after eventually it was taken over. And so what happens is, starting in 1241, there is this forever and ever siege of Montségur. And it lasts and it lasts and it lasts, and the soldiers go away and they come back and they go away and they come back.
[00:43:41] Elyse Rivin: In the meantime, some people have decided that they just can’t deal with this anymore, and they tried to escape through the tunnel. Some people apparently managed to really leave, but what they do is they leave, that is they leave Occitania, they leave France. The last known community of Cathar is actually in Lombardi in Northern Italy. I don’t have any idea what actually happened to them there, to be honest. By 1242, it’s getting difficult for the people inside to sustain themselves. And there are people who have left, and so there aren’t enough people to defend them. Eventually, what happens is they bring in these catapults and they bring in these pieces of machinery, of war machinery, and they start being able to demolish the walls, because it’s so steep that just climbing up the walls is not, up the side of the mountain is not going.
[00:44:31] Elyse Rivin: It takes a long time.
[00:44:32] Montségur is breached
[00:44:32] Elyse Rivin: And eventually, they managed to breakthrough the ramparts and they take the castle of Montségur.
[00:44:41] Elyse Rivin: And what do they do? Now, the story is that by this time there were maybe 300 people left inside, which included some of these knights, and then the rest of them were just people who were Cathar, but very, very religiously.
[00:44:53] Annie Sargent: If they were still there, they were very religious.
[00:44:55] They were very religious. They were the ones who were not going to give up under any circumstances.
[00:45:00] Elyse Rivin: And so the head of this army basically says to them, you have 15 days. You can either come out and renounce your faith in this new religion, and we will let you live or you will be killed. We will surround the walls, we will set everything on fire and you will die. 15 days.
[00:45:22] Elyse Rivin: Apparently, there’s interesting question about why they allowed them to stay for 15 days. Was it to give them time to ruminate about it? In any event, what did happen was that three or four people left through the tunnel. They were the ones that were actually able to tell other people about what happened.
[00:45:40] Elyse Rivin: There’s a story about a treasure, nobody knows if that ever really existed or not, you know, everybody still goes and looks for it.
[00:45:46] The end of the Cathars
[00:45:46] Elyse Rivin: And when the soldiers finally came on that 15th day and they said, who will leave? Nobody, nobody. They said, we will not leave, we will not abjure our faith. And so 244 people were set on fire inside the walls of Montségur.
[00:46:08] Elyse Rivin: And in the year 1243, that was the end. That was the end of the Cathar in France. That was the end of all rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church, until something happens several hundred years later.
[00:46:24] Annie Sargent: Called the French Revolution
[00:46:25] Elyse Rivin: It’s called, The War of Religion with the Protestants.
[00:46:28] Annie Sargent: There
[00:46:29] Elyse Rivin: There was that too, 300 years later, and then we get to the Revolution. But the war was so intense, so we’re talking about a period from 1209 to 1243.
[00:46:39] Annie Sargent: And in many ways, it makes sense because in a theology like the Cathar, where really, the whole point of life is to abandon the worldly body. You know, why would they have fought it? If they are into it that much, they couldn’t commit suicide, but they could let themselves be
[00:46:58] Annie Sargent: killed
[00:46:59] Elyse Rivin: they let themselves be killed. They let themselves be martyred to their faith.
[00:47:03] Visiting Montségur today
[00:47:03] Annie Sargent: So if you go to Montségur today, it’s a lovely place to visit, we’ll do that briefly. You just take a nice hike. It takes, I think they say 20 minutes. For me, it was more like 40 minutes.
[00:47:17] Elyse Rivin: It’s steep.
[00:47:18] Annie Sargent: steep.
[00:47:19] It’s not paved, don’t bring a stroller. Wear very good shoes, bring water. You pay a little bit of money at the entrance.
[00:47:28] Elyse Rivin: It’s €5.50 per adult.
[00:47:31] Elyse Rivin: And €2 for children, don’t know exactly what the age group is considered to be for children. But it is now paying.
[00:47:37] Annie Sargent: There is a guy there that does tours in French. I don’t know if he does anything in English.
[00:47:45] Elyse Rivin: His name is Fabrice and no, he’s the official guide of Montségur and he does his tours in French.
[00:47:50] Annie Sargent: Just once a day, maybe. Right?
[00:47:52] Elyse Rivin: I think in the summer, he probably does one in the morning and one in the afternoon. But if you speak French or understand French, he’s actually quite good.
[00:48:00] Elyse Rivin: I mean, he really knows a lot about it.
[00:48:01] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So it’s a lovely place to go. You can visit the little village of Montségur, which is not far, there’s not much there but
[00:48:10] Elyse Rivin: Couple of cafes, there’s a little shop. It’s cute. I mean, it’s very cute.
[00:48:15] Annie Sargent: But in the ruin itself, it’s not like when you exit you leave through the gift shop or anything like that. Okay. It’s really wilderness. it’s Yeah, it’s a ruin, you hike up to the ruin, you hike down from the ruin and then you go get some food somewhere else.
[00:48:32] Elyse Rivin: There’s a big parking lot down below, a lot of people, what they do is they picnic down below. There’s kind of like a meadow, it’s very pretty. You have a view. One of the things about Montségur, aside from this history of it, is that it’s a site that’s spectacular.
[00:48:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s beautiful.
[00:48:46] Elyse Rivin: It’s just beautiful. And so you can picnic down below and then you go up, but it is really what you’re going up to, is really to a ruin and to imagine how people lived up there.
[00:48:59] Annie Sargent: Right,
[00:48:59] Elyse Rivin: Really.
[00:49:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and you can see the places where they had holes for the beams for the floor. So right now the walls are just, you know, straight walls. There’s nothing left inside, but you can see where they used to have floors. It used to be a Chateau, with the different rooms and whatever.
[00:49:19] Annie Sargent: Now it’s just ruins. Now, not too far from there, there’s another one and we don’t have time to go into it, but if you want to visit two in a day, you could do Roquefixade nearby. And Roquefixade, I’m not sure what the whole history is there. Something similar might have happened, I’m really not clear on it, but that one you can drive up to.
[00:49:42] Annie Sargent: So it’s, you know, for people who have reduced mobility, Roquefixade is going to be easier than Montségur.
[00:49:48] And on a good clear day, you can actually see the ruin of Montségur from Roquefixade.
[00:49:54] Roquefixade is on the Southern side, and so you’re looking, it’s on the Southern side of the mountain looking further South, and Montségur is across the way.
[00:50:03] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and both are absolutely lovely to visit. A nice hike for Montségur and a beautiful drive for Roquefixade. I recommend it, I’ve been there a lot of times, obviously, because I’m from around here, but the story is just fascinating.
[00:50:18] Elyse Rivin: It’s a fascinating story and it’s a wonderful day trip from Toulouse, you can go to Foix, which is not that far away, either the town of Foix, which still has a castle and then go Montségur. But everyone here knows the story of the ending of things in Montségur.
[00:50:32] Book about Montségur
[00:50:32] Annie Sargent: And if you want to hear all about this, I really recommend a book by Zoé Oldenbourg, called Massacre at Montségur. It’s not a recent book, but it’s a very well-documented book and it’s in English. So this lady was not French-born, I don’t think.
[00:50:54] Elyse Rivin: She was Russian.
[00:50:56] Annie Sargent: Russian, there you go. But she lived in France for a long time and I think she wrote in French for the most part.
[00:51:02] Elyse Rivin: If I understand correctly, the book was originally written in French and then for some reason, sells a lot in English.
[00:51:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah, because it’s one of the few that’s like meaty. I mean, that book goes into the whole history of the Southwest and it’s really a very, very well done, very interesting book.
[00:51:19] Annie Sargent: So I will put a link to that book in the show notes as well.
[00:51:23] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much, Elyse, it was just lovely to learn all about this. I kind of knew it, but at the same time, it’s a beautiful refresher and such dramatic events.
[00:51:34] Elyse Rivin: Such dramatic events.
[00:51:36] Annie Sargent: Merci beaucoup, Elyse!
[00:51:37] Elyse Rivin: Oh, thank you, Annie.
[00:51:38] Annie Sargent: Au-revoir!
[00:51:39] Patrons and donors make this podcast possible!
[00:51:39] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing so. You can see them at patreon.com/JoinUs. P A T R E O N , Join Us no spaces or dashes. Thank you all for supporting the show, some of you for a long time, you are wonderful.
[00:52:09] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons, Debra Swindlehurst, Michelle Jensen, Judi Wise, and Barbara Schmidt. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible.
[00:52:25] Annie Sargent: This week, I asked my patrons what they’d like to hear more of on the podcast and their responses were very insightful, I’ll share a video with them, letting them know what’s going to happen with the podcast very soon.
[00:52:40] Annie Sargent: And this week, I also shared a recipe for tarte à la tomate, a quick, easy, tasty and healthy lunch.
[00:52:48] Annie Sargent: Let me remind all donors and podcast guests that all the rewards I post on Patreon are also on addictedtofrance.com, and if you’ve donated to the show or have been a guest on the podcast, you should have a personal login to that.
[00:53:07] Get ready for your own great trip to France with Annie
[00:53:07] Annie Sargent: Another way to support this podcast is to hire me to be your itinerary consultant. Here’s how it works. You purchase the service on, JoinUsInFrance.com/boutique, then you tell me all about your dream trip to France and I help you craft the details. What customers like best about it, is that I spend an hour on the phone with them, they get to ask me all their questions and I enjoy talking to them as well, because all of them have been listening to the show for a while, and so it’s wonderful. It’s a great experience for everybody.
[00:53:42] French expression of the week
[00:53:42] Annie Sargent: Okay, the French expression of the week. I asked the Facebook group, what I should do for the French tip of the week, and several asked for help on how to say village and city names. And I’m happy to help you with that, but you’ve got to tell me what names, because I can’t explain the rules since there aren’t any.
[00:54:03] Annie Sargent: So Don gave me a short list of difficult names. So let’s play.
[00:54:09] Annie Sargent: How do you say R E I M S? That’s the city where French Kings were crowned and where they make champagne. R E I M S is, “Reims”, “Reims”. Yeah, to say it perfectly, you have to get your R “rrrr” going, right? It takes some practice, but even if you don’t do the “r” exactly right, it’s “Reims”. Okay?
[00:54:40] Annie Sargent: How about, R O U E N? Lovely city on the banks of the Seine river in Brittany. R O U E N is “Rouen” of course, “Rouen”, again starts with an R. So, “rrr”, “rrr”, “rrr”, “Rouen.”
[00:55:01] Annie Sargent: How about C A E N? How would you say that? When you poll French people what city they would choose if they could live anywhere in France, they often say that C A E N is one of their top choices. Hmm, C A E N is “Caen.” You say it exactly like “quand”, Q U A N D, which means, “when.” Quand le train de Caen va-t’il arriver? Quand le train de Caen va-t’il arriver?
[00:55:39] Annie Sargent: See? That one’s easy. “Caen” is like “when.”
[00:55:43] Annie Sargent: Here’s another one, that’s the last one.
[00:55:46] Annie Sargent: And that one French people might hesitate how to say that one. It’s T R O Y E S. T R O Y E S.
[00:55:59] Annie Sargent: Give it a try. All right. “Vous donnez votre langue au chat.” T R O Y E S is “trois”, just like the number 3. “Un, Deux, Trois”, T R O Y E S is said, just like the number 3. “Les 3 mousquetaires ne venaient pas de Troyes.”
[00:56:25] Annie Sargent: Okay. So if you think we’re ridiculous in French and too complicated, whatever, english is not a lot better. I’ll just say a few names for you, Leicester, Worcestershire, and Schenectady, New York, Schenectady. Do you even know how to spell that? I had to look it up. And the capital of South Dakota is spelled Pierre and you say “Peer”. Really, “Peer”. The capital of Idaho is Boise and it should be “Boisé”. De Moines, Iowa, “Demoines”. Okay, so, you know, languages, names, they are complicated.
[00:57:05] Annie Sargent: So just remember how we say those names and just don’t worry about it. Just memorize it, that’s how it works.
[00:57:12] Annie Sargent: Reims, Rouen, Caen, Troyes, voilà!.
[00:57:18] French news
[00:57:18] Annie Sargent: This week in French news. Well, French news has concentrated on what’s happening in Ukraine. A lot of talk about the need to not buy any more gas or oil from Russia.
[00:57:30] And also, the big news this week has been about the upcoming elections of our legislators. The French Parliament is a vital institution with 577 députés who come from all over France. They are elected locally, but represent the whole nation. My Député has nothing to do with running my district.
[00:57:57] Annie Sargent: If the leaves are not getting picked up, that’s for the mayor to address, but if a local factory pollutes too much, residents will probably complain to their député and he or she would push a law that applies to the whole country. The députés get selected locally, because there’s an apportionment based on population density, but really, they mostly work on national issues and most of them live in Paris much of the time.
[00:58:28] Annie Sargent: What’s happening right now is that political parties are making agreements. What persons they are going to run, who will bow out in favor of whom in the second round of votes, if it’s tight and it’s usually tight. They are all trying to save their skin and keep as many seats as possible.
[00:58:49] Annie Sargent: Politicians all have grand ideas and theories until it’s clear that they might lose their seat, and then they are open to all sorts of compromises, even ones that are a bit shocking. So, time will tell what will happen. We vote in June.
[00:59:07] Travel news
[00:59:07] Annie Sargent: As far as travel to France is concerned, we are seeing a continued uptake in the number of visitors from English-speaking countries from all over Europe, but very few Asian visitors still.
[00:59:20] Annie Sargent: I think the 2022 Summer season is going to be much busier than the 2021 season. Make sure to reserve hotels, restaurants and venues that are popular, because there are going to be lots of people everywhere. There are no restrictions on travel whatsoever right now in France. The only place where you need to wear a mask is in public transportation.
[00:59:46] Annie Sargent: Some people choose to wear a mask in stores, but most people are back to not wearing masks while shopping. No more vaccine passes or anything like that, except a few exceptions that have to do with visiting nursing homes and hospitals.
[01:00:02] Annie Sargent: A few restaurants and venues have not reopened since the pandemic, but it’s only a small proportion, and it’s hard to tell if that’s due to the fact that the hospitality industry in France is having a hard time recruiting enough employees, or some other, you know, factor like the owner decided to do something else with their lives.
[01:00:23] Annie Sargent: The virus is still circulating in France and of course, I mean the COVID-19 virus, but the number of new cases is now below 50,000 per day. And of those 50,000, only a very few get sick enough to need to see a doctor. Right now in all of France, there are fewer than 1500 patients in the ICU for COVID. It is extremely rare to have a fully-vaccinated person experience more than just cold symptoms, but we still have people who refuse to get vaccinated, and they still could get very sick from this virus and die, unfortunately.
[01:01:05] Annie Sargent: Thankfully, we have high vaccination rates in France, and everybody has COVID tests because they are cheap and easy to find. As soon as we get the sniffles we get tested, and if it’s positive, we stay home. And if you’re going to need to get a COVID test before flying home, just go to the nearest pharmacy the day before your trip and they will be able to accommodate you.
[01:01:31] Annie Sargent: Now, if you need a test on a Sunday or on a holiday, you need to think it through a little more, okay? But on a regular business day, you can get a test very easily just about anywhere in France.
[01:01:45] Personal update
[01:01:45] Annie Sargent: For my personal update this week, I’m reading a book about an artist who was a force of nature and very successful in her lifetime, and you’ve probably never heard of her. She is a Rosa Bonheur. Her paintings are stunning, and we’re hearing about her right now a lot more in France because she was born 200 years ago. The book is called “Art is a Tyrant,” and I’m reading it because Elyse and I will soon record an episode about her. She spent the last part of her long life in a chateau in Thomery, not far from Paris.
[01:02:23] Annie Sargent: This chateau is open to the public and you can visit her workshop and a museum dedicated to her. I haven’t seen it personally, and I’m not sure if Elyse has or not. If any of you have visited it, I would love to hear from you, to see what the visit was like.
[01:02:41] Annie Sargent: I’ll be visiting a couple of towns in Tarn this weekend. The weather is lovely and I feel like looking around, I’m not sure which ones I’ll go to yet, but it’s so close to home. It doesn’t take a lot of planning for me. A scenic drive with stops in medieval villages, sounds good to me for a holiday weekend.
[01:03:02] Annie Sargent: Today, Sunday, May 8th is a holiday. It falls on a Sunday, so it doesn’t change much, but watch out, next year, both May 1st and May 8 are going to be on a Monday, which means almost everyone in France will get a long weekend and it’s going to be a really busy week in hotels and restaurants. But I’ll talk about that more next year, but just put a bug in your ear next year, May 1st, May 8 are going to be a little bit tricker.
[01:03:32] Test drive
[01:03:32] Annie Sargent: I test drove an electric car this week. I watched lots of YouTube reviews of the MG ZS EV, and decided to give it a try. And I like it. It fits all my requirements. In France, they are being sold through the Nissan dealerships, it has a big trunk, long range, fast recharge capabilities for long trips, smooth ride, good cameras all around. I don’t have a single camera in my car right now because it’s old. I can get it with a tow ball for my electric bike and it’s not too expensive. So nothing fancy, but a nice car, and we keep our cars a long time in our family and mine is on its last leg. And I can’t get an EV without ordering it, and even if I ordered it today, which I won’t, uh, I probably won’t get it until the end of the year. So it takes some planning. I haven’t decided for sure yet, but I’m actively looking and that one seems like a good choice.
[01:04:36] Annie Sargent: Show notes and full transcript for this episode are on JoinUsInFrance.com/388, the numeral. If you are planning a trip to France or someone you know is planning a trip to France, search the website to see if we’ve talked about that place, because we’ve talked about an awful lot of places.
[01:04:59] Next week
[01:04:59] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast and episode about how to adapt classic French recipes to a vegan lifestyle with Sarala Terpstra. A lot of French food can be made vegetarian and vegan, and since both Sarala and I have written cookbooks about French food, we had a great conversation and I think you will enjoy it. Send questions or feedback to annie@JoinUsInFrance.com.
[01:05:28] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time, so we can look around France together. Au revoir!
[01:05:36] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2022, by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No derivatives license.